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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Modern dance brings international art

For the next two weekends, the U’s Department of Modern Dance will screen 14 internationally award-winning dance films in combination with selected outstanding student works in the sixth International Dance for the Camera Festival.

Directed by modern dance assistant professor Ellen Bromberg, the festival spotlights the genre of dance designed specifically for film.

“It’s a new field in the U.S. There haven’t been many places to learn how to make work like this or to see work like this,” Bromberg said.

The genre is an emerging art form in the United States, but “it’s actually much better supported in other countries in Europe,” Bromberg said.

The geographical locations from which the festival’s dance films come reflect this already established acceptance outside the United States, with works coming from Australia, France, Mexico, Norway, Uruguay and the UK.

As festival curator, Bromberg travels to Europe every two years looking for examples of this art form to put on display at the Dance for the Camera Festival.

In Europe, she attends the largest international dance film marketplace, known as Dance Screen.

“It’s not just a screening; it’s really a marketplace where producers, broadcasters, filmmakers and choreographers come,” she said.

Bromberg also travels to film festivals held in New York and Los Angeles.

“I see as many films as I can, and then I curate based on the films I’ve seen,” she said.

For the 2006 festival, Bromberg chose to do away with previous categorical themes, such as gender issues or men’s work, and instead has opted to present what she found to be most enthralling of all the dance films she has viewed. These include films with special effects, such as the blending of animation with human bodies, stories, loose narratives and “the purity of motion on screen,” Bromberg said.

“Some of the films are really compelling,” she said, noting that the subject matter ranges from humorous and whimsical to beautiful and dramatic.

This year’s selection of 14 professional films from across the globe will be presented within two separate programs-Program A and Program B-each having the option of being viewed twice. The first half of each screening comprises short dance films, while the second half features two major works.

Program A features an award-winning piece, titled “The Cost of Living,” by filmmaker Lloyd Newson, from the United Kingdom.

“It’s a very, very unusual film,” Bromberg said, explaining that it is narrative in form but uses the integral element of dance. “It brings us into relationship with disabled bodies dancing and asks a lot of questions about sexuality, about disability and about survival.”

The feature film within Program B comes from the French filmmaker Benoit Dervaux. Titled “Black Spring,” this dance film highlights life in Africa.

“This is just a magnificent film of African contemporary dance. The camera work, the bodies and the dancing-it’s like something you’ve never seen before,” Bromberg said.

Though in its sixth year, this is the first time the Dance for the Camera Festival will go on a two-weekend run. Bromberg, who has received popular request to hold the festival for more than one weekend, has decided to lengthen the festival “because these are the kinds of films you can see nowhere else.”

“This is the first ongoing dance for the camera festival in the country,” she said. The U can claim even more primacy with the festival since it also offers a unique and very rare opportunity for students to submit work for adjudication and eventual screening.

Bromberg received 87 student submissions from nine different countries, and a total of nine have been selected by a panel of jurors to be screened on the first night of the festival, which will be entirely devoted to student work.

Winning works will be screened for the first half of the evening, with the second half reserved for invitational screenings by some of Bromberg’s modern dance students.

Shannon Mockli, a first-year graduate student in modern dance, will be screening a work that was inspired by what she terms, “the concept of the looking-glass self.”

“(My film) is based on the idea that we often view ourselves as we feel other people see us,” Mockli said.

Mockli constructs fragmented frames of her dancer and choreography to suggest that “we begin to fragment ourselves through our own eyes.”

Mockli’s film follows a dancer through the space of a museum. Soon, the dancer establishes a relationship with the surrounding artwork and eventually sees herself within a painting.

“After all, isn’t that how we interpret art-through our own individual lenses or essentially through ourselves?” she said.

For Mockli, working as a dance filmmaker has presented challenges.

“Often, what you think you are saying is completely different (from) what others are perceiving,” she said. “It is a very different process from choreographing for the stage, in that time, space and concepts are built through very different means.”

Bromberg acknowledges this challenge, but believes it works in favor of the students. When first incorporating the student screenings into the Dance for the Camera Festival four years ago, Bromberg said, she wanted to create a sense of striving for excellence.

“Competition is what helps people meet their potential,” she said.

Both the student and professional screenings alike will exhibit levels of technical and conceptual excellence by means of filming and editing applied toward the basic element of human movement.

“Editing is like choreography because it’s working with moving pictures over time,” Bromberg said. “Because of digital technology and the fact that we are living more of our lives on the screen, I feel like (film) is a way for dance to enter the public arena. It’s a part of a contemporary media culture.”

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